Behaving Yourself in Circle (Part 1 of 2 Parts)

Back yard circle,  Summer Solstice ritual.

I can’t believe I actually have to tell people how to behave.  Really?  I mean, really????

While I am very much a live-and-let-live kind of person and I don’t believe that there’s only one way to do most anything, certain behaviors bother the hell out of me and will get you banned from any circle, ritual, or workshop I lead, and possibly barred from attending secular social occasions I host.  That may sound harsh, and if it does, well, our energy isn’t going to mesh well in a ritual so best if we just end it there.

By behaving, I mean basic etiquette, not whether or not you choose to get naked in circle or get a little carried away jumping over Beltane fertility fires at a festival.  Yeah, yeah, we’ve all been there.  Let’s see if you can spot the common denominator  in Lorna’s Rules for Behaving Yourself in Circle, other than “Wow, Lorna’s really bitchy tonight.”

Lorna’s Rules for Behaving Yourself in Circle:

1.  If you’re having a horrible day and pissed at the world, stay home. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time, but that turbulent energy doesn’t belong in my circle, unless I’ve specifically said, “Hey, I know everyone is having a rough week, so come on over and we’re going to get rid of it together,” and then I do one of my well-loved “handwashing” rituals and we all  lift and clear that energy together.

Have you ever been in circle with everyone and one person is in a foul mood that brings down the rest of the group?  If you’re not empathic or aren’t strongly aware of energy, you may notice or be mildly annoyed, but it won’t necessarily ruin your experience in circle.  For those who feel energy keenly, it’s discordant…jagged…in circle and it becomes a drain on the group energy.

I made my first choice of this sort about 10 years ago as a would-be participant.  I’d been looking forward to a Winter Solstice ritual to manifest my intentions for the next year and was sooo excited.  When I arrived home after work, a letter in the mail informed me that I’d just lost the promotion I’d been working toward for the last two years.  I was devastated and angry, and even though I still wanted to go to the ritual, I knew that my horrid mood would disturb the flow of energy for everyone else.  All I could focus on right then was my loss and my anger, so instead I spent time in a private ritual of my own, grieving my promotion and releasing the anger until my energy ran clear.  If I’d gone to the group ritual, I would have spent my time sulking or complaining rather than working through the issues.  Worse, in that kind of bad mood, it was entirely the wrong kind of energy to manifest my wonderful intentions for the year, and I didn’t need to attach negativity to my lofty goals.  Much better to wait a little bit and lift up those intentions with pure, positive energy and love.

2.  Arrive on time. Yes, we all know the joke about rituals starting on Pagan Standard Time.  We also know that it’s no joke.  The ritual scheduled to start at 7 PM (that you beg off work early to get to on time) may easily start at 9 PM or later.  However, if there is ONE thing I’m very structured about, it’s my time and not wasting it.  If we are all waiting for you to show up and can’t start without you, you are stealing that time from us.  There are many other things we could be doing than waiting for you to roll in whenever you feel like it.

If you can’t arrive on time–and things do happen–let your circle leader know.   Depending on the group’s size and purpose, it may be possible to switch ritual or workshop time with social time or to accomodate you somehow.  Maybe, maybe not.    I usually structure my Gatherings so that we have some social time up front, then dinner, then workshop/ritual, then time for questions, chat, or readings.  Because a few people have trouble with leaving work on time, I never start a workshop or ritual until after 7PM, but I have to be up at the crack of dawn for work the next morning so we stick to a schedule as much as possible.  If you miss the meal, then you can help yourself later.Flying By Night novel

3.  If you’re not there when the circle is cast, don’t try to force yourself into the ritual. Or, if you arrive late for a workshop, quietly take your seat  and don’t make the speaker start all over with questions or interruptions.

If you can’t make it or something prevents you from being in circle with me, that’s okay.  I have a philosophy about it that I’ve written about before in my article,  No-Shows: Applying a Spiritual Lesson to Personal Relationships.

Back in 2000, Maggie Shayne, Evelyn Vaughn, and I led an Open Circle in Washington DC at the Romance Writers of America National Conference.  It was very well-attended, but one of the women who’d really wanted to participate had a minor mishap on her way to the Circle.  A sprained ankle or something of that sort.  She had to sit out the event and watch from a distance.   It was at that point that Maggie passed along something to me that I’d heard for the first time but was reiterated to me in my own spiritual practice over the next few years:

Don’t be upset if someone isn’t able to attend a ritual, service, or group event.  You may not know the reason, but they aren’t meant to be there at that particular time.

I have been astonished, however, by people showing up 30 minutes into a ritual and demanding the leader let them in.  I recently spoke to a very sweet-hearted priestess who, against her better judgment, allowed a late-comer who completely broke apart the energy of the circle by disrupting and then dominating the ritual with her attitude.  Normally the priestess would not have allowed the late-comer in, but she was trying to be  accommodating  and a good hostess and she caused herself a lot of unnecessary strain.

4. Your cell phone does not belong in circle. I can’t believe I have to include this!

I don’t mind discreet texting in a workshop I’m leading but please put the phone on vibrate and leave the room to take a call.  Or am I supposed to stop my workshop and everyone wait for you to chat 10 minutes?  Then again, we have put 7 phones in the middle of a workshop so we can talk about the Ghost Radar app but  it was related to the discussion itself and we all had fun with it as a group.  (See? I’m not totally a stick in the mud!”)

As for rituals, leave the phone in the house, in another room, or on silent but outside and away from the actual circle.   I do not care that your clingy girlfriend needs to hear from you every 15 minutes or  she thinks you’re cheating on her–stop texting and sexting and pay attention to ritual or sit it out.  I’m understanding that you’re waiting to hear from sick relatives,  and I encourage you to have an appointed time to check in with them….as long as you’re not answering their call in the middle of Quarter Call.

Ritual is your time to give your full attention to the Gods…and I don’t want to see a Facebook post that says, “Awesome!  We’re now washing away our old wounds and Buttercup is crying her eyes out over an ex-boyfriend she thought she was over!”

5.  Do not carry on full-length conversations via sign language during a ritual or even a workshop.  OMG.  I could not make this stuff up.

Before my current spiritual circle became a closed or private group–and part of the reason we decided to close it and focus on serious students–I had a couple of women in their 20’s attend several workshops and rituals in my home.  In the middle of the first workshop, with all of us seated in a circle, one of them began making wild hand gestures about 5 feet to my left.  Then the other, about 5 feet to my right, answered her with a flurry of hand motions while I was focusing on giving precise instructions.  I completely lost my train of thought and stopped my workshop, to which one said, “Oh, go ahead.”  When I asked them to please stop distracting both their teacher and fellow students, they didn’t understand the problem.  After all, it wasn’t like they were being LOUD.  And then they continued, after being asked to stop, to hold sign language discussions during the workshops and rituals.  They are, to this day, on my banned list.

Please come back for Part 2 of this article next Friday.  Until then, behave yourself!

(By the way, my current private circle?  The group was fine-tuned until we have had none on these problems in several years.)